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A muddler is a key bar tool, essential for a successful cocktail repertoire. Whether it's made from wood, metal, or glass, the end of your muddler can be used for crushing whole herbs, pieces of fruit, and even ice on occasion. It works by gently pressing out an herb or fruit skin's oils while also releasing flavor. This creates a vital building block for many of our favorite cocktails, from the mojito and mint julep to gin cocktails made with muddled cucumber and basil.
Muddlers are generally inexpensive, but because there are so many to choose from, I've interviewed a slew of bartenders and mixology experts to learn their favorites. Here are the best muddlers, guesswork removed and broken into helpful categories for the discerning buyer.
Best Overall: Winco Wooden Muddler Lacquered Walnut
What We Love: Beautiful lacquer surface, affordable
What We Don't Love: Not dishwasher safe
The muddling end of a muddler is often designed with one of two options: flat-bottomed or with teeth. "I have a really old wooden muddler [with]... a flat bottom, not a scored one, and I use that style so that it doesn’t tear up the product too badly," says Terry Teske, general manager of Summit restaurant at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "I like flavors to move around freely, but only a little bit of material."
The flat bottom and pretty walnut-lacquered surface of the Winco Wooden Muddler make it my pick for the best wooden muddler. At just two ounces in weight, it is easy to maneuver for mixology needs, and its almost 8-inch length makes it long enough to reach the bottom of your glassware. I also love Wilco's longtime reputation for quality, as it's a favored brand of bartenders everywhere.
Material: Wood | Length: 7.9 inches | Dishwasher Safe: No
Best Overall, Runner-Up: Cocktail Kingdom Bad Ass Muddler
What We Love: Popular among professional bartenders, non-absorbent, durable
What We Don't Love: Sells out often
Cocktail Kingdom is a New York City store that has every bar tool you could ever need, and it branched out into making its own line of barware. Essentially, this is a muddler made by experts for experts.
First, it's made from food-grade plastic, which offers an advantage over wooden muddlers. "No need to worry about wood breaking off in your drink in comparison to using a wooden muddler," says Rebecca Monday, general manager and beverage program director at VASO in Dublin, Ohio. "[It] lives up to its expectations, and it comes recommended by Dave Arnold." Monday also points out that, though this is plastic, it doesn't retain smells or flavors, which will ruin your drink before you even make it.
The design of this muddle also makes it extra versatile, with one rounded end for soft muddling and a hard-edged end for stiffer ingredients. It weighs almost a pound and is nearly 10 inches long to easily reach the bottom of all kinds of glassware or cocktail shakers. "It should last a lifetime," says Sam Montgomery, brand ambassador for Bardstown Bourbon Company.
Material: Plastic | Length: 9.75 inches | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Best Metal: OXO Steel Muddler
What We Love: Durability, dishwasher safe, lightweight
What We Don't Love: Pricey
Metal muddlers offer some distinct benefits. First, the muddling end is less likely to absorb any flavors or bacteria or be stained by ingredients. Secondly, the stronger nature of metal helps when faced with sturdier components.
"The stainless steel muddler is strong, you can go hard when you need to break things up, but also go as light as you need to if you're muddling fresh herbs," says Amber Gonzales, mixologist and bar manager at Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine in Ashland, Oregon. "It helps with the grinding, especially when you muddle sugar cubes or something a little harder. When I make Old Fashioneds, I'm able to grind the sugar cubes fine, which allows the flavors to come out more and seep into the drink faster."
Of course, you don't want a metal muddler to be slippery, which is where the OXO Steel Muddler stands out. Its nylon grip is comfortable in your hand, even if you had to pop the muddler in the freezer for a few moments. It’s formulated with sturdy, die-cast zinc as well as a nylon head to better protect glassware (the tagline is "built to last, won’t scratch glass"). Despite its durability, the OXO Steel Muddler is remarkably lightweight, at just a tenth of a pound, and is 9 inches long to reach the bottom of any Collins glass.
Material: Stainless steel | Length: 9 inches | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Best Bamboo: HIC Harold Import Co. Natural Bamboo Mojito Muddler
What We Love: Affordable, sustainable material
What We Don't Love: Not as durable
There are a lot of products made from bamboo in the kitchenware space since it grows quickly, self-regenerates from its own roots, and doesn’t require fertilizer. This helps bamboo be one of the more sustainable wood materials around.
This muddler earns extra points for being made sustainably, but that's not all it's good for. "It has these great teeth at the bottom and aids in the speed and ability to muddle those hardy herbs in a timely manner," says Melanie Phelan, owner and president of Site-1 Brewing in Omaha, Nebraska. "The teeth, for lack of a better word, really break up the ingredients and allow the aromas to do their job while the flavor profile also shines through the often overpowering alcohol flavors."
This natural bamboo muddler is a solid wooden piece, simple yet aesthetically pleasing, and is a good size for all your muddling needs.
Material: Bamboo | Length: 8.5 inches | Dishwasher Safe: No
Related: The Best Drinking Glasses
Best Two-in-One: Cocktail Kingdom Muddler Barspoon
What We Love: Available in different finishes, multipurpose
What We Don't Love: Not dishwasher safe, hard to find
If you're low on space or simply don't want a bar tool that's only good for one thing, then this muddler/bar spoon combo deserves a place in your bar collection. In fact, some bartenders like this over other muddlers. "My preference is a 40cm muddler barspoon from Cocktail Kingdom because I can muddle my ingredients in a shaker, mixing glass, or in the glass itself, and then easily flip it to stir the cocktail," says David Kerr, owner and general manager of The Tavern in Omaha, Nebraska. "It makes for a more efficient way to work and cuts down on tools to clean."
If less space and multiple uses aren't enough for you, the silver-plated muddler bar spoon is available in rose gold and gold finish as well, so you can match your decor or flatware. It is a smaller muddler which allows for more delicate work, which can be time-consuming when you need a quick cocktail.
Material: Stainless steel | Length: 9 inches | Dishwasher Safe: No
Related: The Best Citrus Juicers
If you want a muddler designed by experts, pick up the ever-popular Cocktail Kingdom Bad Ass Muddler (view at Cocktail Kingdom). If you're in the market for a comfortable, tall muddler that will last you for years, the OXO Steel Muddler (view at Amazon) is a great bet.
What to Look for When Buying a Muddler
Muddlers come in a variety of materials and sizes. When it comes to size, think about your tallest glass—you'll want a muddler that can reach the bottom of all your glassware. Which material to choose is the bigger decision though, so that you only buy the muddler you need.
Stainless Steel: Metal muddlers can handle almost anything you want in your cocktail, including crushing ice down when necessary. Since metal's non-absorbent, you don't have to worry about smells or staining, and it's extremely durable, so you won't need to buy a new one a year from now. You will have to make sure to get a design that isn't slippery or affected by temperature. Metal will also usually mean a higher price tag.
Wood: Wood muddlers have the heft needed to muddle larger herbs and slices of citrus. And the wood gives it a certain gravitas. But wood can absorb smells and stain, and if a wood muddler is showing its age, splinters can fall off into your glass. Since the lacquer may erode and wood can split from being soaked, you also will need to handwash them each and every time.
Plastic: If your muddler is made from plastic, you won't need to worry about it absorbing smells or flavors from one dinner party to the next, and depending on the model, it can have enough weight to do the job right. It'll also be safe in the dishwasher. Plastic, though, might not look stylish next to a metal barware set, and it's not the best choice for the environment.
For optimal cleaning of stainless steel, clean in warm soapy water, then polish using a microfiber polishing cloth for longevity. Plastic muddlers might be able to go in the dishwasher, but we recommend putting them on the top rack to be safe.
Any wooden bar tools should never be placed in the dishwasher, so prepare to wash them by hand using warm water and mild dish soap. Hand or air dry as well to increase longevity. If necessary, muddlers can be lightly oiled using mineral or olive oil.
What drinks are a muddler needed for?
As mentioned above, one of the most popular drinks that needs a muddler for proper preparation is the mojito, which utilizes muddled mint for a refreshing sip. Mint juleps, the cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, are another popular pick where you'll muddle mint. Old Fashioneds use muddlers for the bitters and sugar cube, while Sazeracs need them for the lime component. Caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil, also requires its lime and sugar to be muddled.
How do you use a muddler?
At home, cocktail enthusiasts should grip the muddler tightly using their whole hand. Then gently press and twist a few times before moving onto the next bunch of leaves or fruit, thus avoiding bruising these items. The thinner end of the muddler can also be used as a stir stick, but the wider end gets the most use.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Katy Spratte Joyce has been a prolific home cook, wine enthusiast, and un-fussy foodie for over a decade, and now she’s writing about it. She has somehow accumulated four muddlers, a fate she wishes on no one.
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